Is there anything worse than ambivalence?

Aside

ambivalence[ am-biv-uh-luh ns ]
noun
1. uncertainty or fluctuation, especially when caused by inability to make a choice or by a simultaneous desire to say or do two opposite or conflicting things.
2. the coexistence within an individual of positive and negative feelings toward the same person, object, or action, simultaneously drawing him or her in opposite directions.

The Silver Flask of Narrative Gold

A few months ago, while I was sorting and clearing my dear late mama’s house and antique collection, I found a beautiful silver hip flask that has become somewhat of a talisman. It never fails to elicit stories, memories, dreams and reflections while dispensing medicinal amounts of single malt scotch, as if it were the elixir of life.

photo of my mother's silver hip flaskThe Merriam-Webster dictionary defines talisman as: 1: an object held to act as a charm to avert evil and bring good fortune. 2: something producing apparently magical or miraculous effects. ”

The Genie in the Bottle

As a storyteller, this silver flask is narrative gold. It’s a conversation piece that never fails to both delight and ignite the imagination. People want to touch it, sip it, discuss it, hear about it, fondle it, marvel at it and, not least, savour its golden contents. The effect of this flask as a functional objet d’art, in combination with the malted liquid muse contained therein, is nothing short of remarkable! It’s like a Genie in a bottle!

photo of silver hip flask lid "James Dixon and sons"

So it’s becoming a bit of a ritual: before I head out to a party or gathering, I carefully fill the flask with Bush Mills or Auchentoshan Single Malt whiskey (I’m open to other suggestions). And then I wait for the right moment to pull it out…. the wide-eyed expressions of delight and surprise when people first catch a glimpse of it, is priceless! It’s as if they can hardly believe their eyes!

photo of The Silver Flask of Plenty

Ask the Flask

The stories it elicits have a timeless archetypal quality. One friend, who is not easily impressed, declared that if this flask were sold on the open market, it would be highly sought after, fetch a high price and find its way into the hands of a rich Saudi prince, who would treasure it as a gift from another world. Others have conjectured that it has survived the front line in a World War or two, offering a lifeline for a trench full of dispirited soldiers.  It’s even inspired the possible creation of a creative iPhone app and Instagram filter.

photo of silver mark on the bottom of the flask

The Hip Flask Chicks

I recently had dinner with a couple of digital media creator pals to brainstorm ideas and collaborations, and once again the flask found its way into the heart of our conversation. Not only did this beautiful silver vessel convert a scotch-hater into an evangelizing single malt crusader, but it so inspired her that she promptly spent an afternoon searching local antique shops to find flasks for both herself and her partner. And as we tossed around ideas for project names and hashtags, the flask even managed to become a hilarious steam-punk symbol of empowered female creativity and self expression.

I feel sure this Flask of Plenty will continue to bring me good storytelling luck by inspiring magical tales, miraculous effects, while keeping the single malt industry in business! Thanks mom!

Do you have a talisman that brings you good luck? Share please!

POST SCRIPT (Nov 24) – my mother’s flask has started a craze! People have heard of it where ever I go and people are even shopping for antique flasks! Read Angela Hemming’s flask post, also inspired by my mom’s talisman! tee hee!

Crowdfunding, Collaboration and the Blind Men and the Elephant

This week, five key media-making organizations in Victoria are joining forces for the first time to present Ian Mackenzie’s popular Crowdfunding 101 workshop, and Media Rising (yours truly) has helped to make that happen. As part of a new move towards increased collaboration across media sectors, MediaNet, CineVic, the Victoria Independent Film Professionals Association (ViFPA), Media that Matters and the Vancouver Island South Film & Media Commission are coming together to offer a workshop that is all about participatory thinking inspired by online engagement. Read more about the workshop in this Times Colonist article.

Tearing Down Old Structures

While the new 24/7 everywhere media environment is presenting a whole host of funding, production and distribution challenges, it’s also thankfully breaking down worn out silos and hierarchical ways of doing business. The distinction between amateur and professional media creators becomes blurred, and even irrelevant, when everyone is struggling to make a living in the field.

Cooperation in a fractured media landscape

This became very clear when ViFPA, Media that Matters, NFB and Media Rising offered a workshop called Making Films, Making a Living in March 2012.  We brought a wide range of local screen media professionals together with the hope of forging a new collaborative future out of the fractured media landscape. What emerged was a renewed spirit of cooperation and shared learning that transcends age, experience, job titles and sectors.

drawing of the Blind Men and the Elephant

The Blind Men and the Elephant

If you’re planning to make a living telling a story or message to an audience, the game is changing beyond recognition, no matter whether you work in film, video, TV, the Web, social media or even writing. The cult of the individual has encouraged us to try to figure out things out on our own, but the problem is too multifaceted for one person to solve. It’s like the story about the blind men and the elephant: individually they couldn’t make sense of their different experiences, but with the perspective of their collective understanding comes the possibility of greater knowledge and insight.

Collaboration is the name of the game

So, waddya say.. Let’s work together across our differences to find bold new answers to mind-bending media questions.

 

The Passion and Poetry of Community Leadership

Last week I was invited talk about Community Leadership at Darlene Clover’s University of Victoria class. At the end of the class, Darlene offered up a ‘found poem’ that poignantly captured the essence of my presentation. I felt so honoured, and it resonated so deeply, that I thought it was worth sharing…

Ode to Mandy Leith

by Darlene Clover

Do your part
Believe in something
Arab spring, European summer, North American fall
Our stories are powerful
Stories make us human
Raise your message above the rest
Be the change you want to see
Live your message through your life
Move forward with what inspires you
Speak to where the community is at
Plant your dreams
Challenge the didactic passive education role
Encourage conversation
Ask what people think
Create a sense of community
Change the seating, put the audience at the centre
Have food – they will come
Everyone is a community leader
Occupy everything
Use living microphones
Be loud, commit, build trust, democratize
Own your culture, be a media activist
Teach media literacy
Tear down the power structures and senseless bureaucracies
Let film speak for your community
Restore the banter of the bazaar
Breed engagement, create traffic
Follow the rules/break the rules
Let passion exist

Currently, my passion is leading me to work with the vibrant global Occupy movement. Where does your passion live?

The Story Behind Social Media for Writers

I’ve been working with a lot of authors recently. Social media, writing and storytelling make cosy bedfellows; no matter which way you fold it, they need each other, and together they make a great team.

Wired Words Logo

Wired Words: A Symposium for Writers of Every Ilk

Last weekend,  I was invited to speak at Wired Words, the first BC Federation of Writers annual festival on Saturday September 10th, 2011. 50 local authors, writers and storytellers gathered in the stunning historic courtroom of the BC Maritime Museum to talk about everything narrative, ePublishing and digital media. It felt particularly poignant for this old-time house of law to host a twitter workshop.

Wired Words at the BC Maritime Museum Courtroom

BC Maritime Museum Courtroom, VIctoria BC

Writing in the 21st Century

A plethora of insights and tools were discussed at half a dozen insightful presentations: ePublishing, blogging, online marketing and digital printing. I gave 2 presentations, one on Social Media for Writers and the other explored film editing as it relates to writing and literary editing (more on the that later!). All were extremely well-received. Here’s a review of the day, with video interviews of Lorne Daniel and yours truly, written by Craig Spence.

Mandy Leith at Wired Words Festival, Victoria BC

Wired Words participants talk social media with Mandy Leith. Photo: Kim Goldberg

Connecting the Dots

Social networking is a great way to engage with not only readers, but the bookstores that sell your tomes, the publishers who print them and the reviewers who get the word out. Plus, writing blog posts is great way to practice word craft. In addition to a blog (I recommend WordPress.org), Twitter and Facebook page and Youtube (for video trailers of your book), there are a wealth of useful social media tools for authors. LibraryThing, Shelfari and Goodreads are only a few of the sites that offer online networks for sharing your personal library, reviews, published works, and of course, connecting with other writers and readers.

Writers need Social Media: Social Media Needs Writers

“Online tools are the fastest and easiest way for writers to begin building an audience, get better at their craft and network with others.” comments publisher Jane Friedman, whose blog is a great resource. Another great website, chock full of social media tips and links is The Creative Penn.

It’s very rewarding to provide social media support to authors as they launch their new books. I’m currently assisting local author John Shields’ new virtual book launch on September 21st, 2011: The Priest Who Left His Religion: In Pursuit of Cosmic Spirituality. I simply love the myriad of places that story and media come together. As a media-savvy storyteller, it’s my stock-in-trade.

What social media strategies have worked for you and your book or publication?

A Good Story Isn’t Perfect. Neither are Blog Posts.

It’s been far, far too long since I last posted here…why is that?

Blogging is a Commitment

It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about interesting stories I’ve wanted to share over the last few adventurous months (more on that later, promise!). But every time I’d think about writing a blog post, I’d feel strangely daunted and intimidated by the task. What to do, what to do…

I recently had an aha moment — I realized I’ve been labouring with this idea that everything I publish here needs to be polished, poignant and, well, perfect. After all, I’m an editor who understands just how long it takes to craft good, meaningful stories. And yet I’m starting to believe that the true value of blogging is to offer up authentic, tasty, narrative bites that can be easily digested. That’s an art in itself, that I have yet to master.

So when I came upon this inspirational video the other day, it seemed like a perfect  segue and a great opportunity to approach blogging with a different perspective…

Creativity is a Process

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

So I need to give myself time to find my own blogging style by experimenting and practicing, to see what works for me and of course, you, dear reader. So I’m going to keep it simple and keep sketching in order to find my own natural, easy blogging voice.

Sketchblog v. Masterpost

I’ve had this conversation with a lot of other bloggers and I suspect it’s a common complaint. How to do you deal with the practice of blogging? What are your stumbling blocks? What’s worked for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.